Monday, January 31, 2011

In Which the Composer Gets It Done

A tall man, with a long roller and determination.

In the afternoon I said, "Let me take a turn and you eat something." He gave me the side eye. "You wouldn't last five minutes."

Which was true. So how did he keep going for eight hours, until it was all done? What a man.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Some New York Style for Felix

Giles works just a short block down from a Muji store in New York, and since he loves the skinny, unadorned, made-from-natural-fibers men's clothes, he stops in frequently to see if anything has been marked way down.

And that's how he found gorgeous wool coats for himself and Felix. He bought his in gray and sent one down here in black. I love. Just like sister dresses.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daisy Draping

I looked in the sewing room and saw Lucille decked out as a bride, in scraps from the dress-up trunk.

Daisy was just putting the final red velvet touches on her ensemble.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shuffling the China

Because I'm painting the big china cabinet. Where to put it all in the meantime?

Clara's brilliant idea was the bookshelves that have been emptied and primed. The living room is one big shell game for the duration.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"A Beautiful Room"

"That would make a beautiful room . . . all white, heavy white enamel. She saw where her money would go now, in pots of paint and brushes, and the work would take days, weeks; but it would be beautiful. She could see her dream before her, and was happy."

--Grace Livingston Hill, Re-Creations

Monday, January 24, 2011

Alabama Skirt

I finished the skirt I started here, and it was a very enjoyable bout of hand-sewing. And boy, is it a comfortable skirt!

I didn't make particularly showy design choices, so some of the detail gets lost in the wearing, I think, but next time I'm going to bring in some punch! I'll also plan on binding the bottom edge as the jersey does tend to curl. Just the nature of the beast.

I've promised myself another Alabama Style project as soon as I finish Painting the Living Room.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Happens When You Paint

"The rectory dining room and kitchen were upside down and backward, and the plunder from the two rooms had been scattered throughout the parlor and along the hallway, not to mention dumped on either side of the steps all the way to the landing. . . .

He saw his wife on occasion, but hardly recognized her, smeared as she was with pumpkin-colored paint, and her hair tied back with a rag. . . .

What he wondered was how much longer they'd be dodging around paint buckets and ladders, not to mention that he'd stepped in a skillet last night as he went up to bed. His study was the only place on the ground floor that hadn't been invaded by the haste to transform the rectory into an old Italian villa before May fifteenth."

Jan Karon, These High, Green Hills

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Coat and Hat Kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope at the front door. Always the same colors, different patterns and bits showing every day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bella Sings Faure

It's been a year since I taped Bella singing, but we finally recorded her again. Enjoy this clip--it's just her informal practice at the piano with Clara, some of Faure's famous "Pie Jesu."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tiger by the Tail

Clara and I have taken the tiger by the tail: we have started painting the living room. It was so hard to start, knowing that the minute we did we would make the room worse, oh so much worse. And there would be no way out besides finishing the whole job.*

It's such a big room and we have to do the ceiling. And we have to do the bookcase. And did I say how big the room is, and how many four over four windows it has?

My mental radio these days is tuned only to the painting station, where I hear constant status reports, expert predictions, and dire warning from various parts of my brain.

Bear with me. There may not be much sewing done the next few weeks.

*Giles, why can't you live at home and paint for me?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Clara Knitting a Camisole

Clara's using tiny needles--size 1--to knit this gorgeous camisole from Vintage Knits. It gets tipped in raspberry silk edging, which will be so gorgeous with the crisp aqua cotton. It's beautifully fitted with moss stitch on the upper bodice and straps. Her knitting is so very very lovely, it makes me want to get back to mine. When I find the bag it's in.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wafer Cake

Now here's a treat, made from magic. You buy a box of "Tortenboden" at the German grocery store, and take out the eight paper-thin layers of crisp wafer. Cut them in half so they'll fit on the platter, spread Nutella on each of them, stack them, and then cover them with cocoa-and-sugar enhanced whipped cream. After half a day, the wafers soften up just a little, and when you cut into it, you see what appears to be myriads of chocolatey layers.

Then you stop looking, and start eating.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Golden Bowl

My mother-in-law gives me gifts I would never buy for myself. For Christmas, this golden bowl and golden tray. At first I didn't think they would make themselves at home, at all, but now I really enjoy the vivid glow they give off in the center of the living room table.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Starting Some Alabama Style

I've had Natalie Chanin's inspiring books on my shelf for a couple of years now, and I've been sitting on her ideas until at last they've hatched in my hands.

I love her aesthetic, and the way she uses everyday materials to make gorgeous clothes. Everything is created out of cotton jersey and buttonhole thread, with maybe a little elastic at a skirt waist. But the ingredients are used with such ingenuity and elaboration that the end results *so* transcend their humble beginnings. She makes me think of artisan bakers who do everything with just flour, yeast, and salt.

I cut out my first cotton jersey project--a gored skirt in red. Seams sewn together (I did mine on the machine), then time to start embellishing the seam allowances by hand. I chose a straightforward whipstitch to hold the seam allowances down (they're on the right side of the garment). Already I can tell that I'm affecting the drape of the skirt. Fascinating!

And I love that the wrong side is even more beautiful than the right! Next time I'll use this graceful stitch in a place that shows. I'm following the instructions for this skirt:

although I won't do the eyelet embroidery at the hem. Something simpler, and then on to a full-size dress. This skirt is a great warm-up and a great way to learn how to handle the materials.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life Imitates Art

. . . courtesy of Daisy and Parnell.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warm Light in the Cold Valley

So rare to see snow that's lasted three days, even in the shady crooks of the trees in the backyard.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Cold Weekend in Chicago

The girls' Christmas trip came in January this year--less time to wait, but much colder weather. Hello, Chicago!

Daisy brings her little world with her. That's Big Ducky in her hand; he's her constant companion. He got to do a lot of sightseeing.

Yes, we went to the American Girl store again. Grandpa's Christmas cash was burning a hole in someone's little purse. The big eyes! The adding and subtracting! She bought a kitten she calls Parnell (the tag says Praline, who has time to read carefully?). And a stuffed monk seal. And two fancy outfits for her Elizabeth doll. And then her money was used up and she was very happy.

Free weekdays at the Art Institute! Major hit in the basement--the tiny fully-furnished rooms decorated in various periods.

And then: the opera house! Tickets to The Mikado. Clara and Bella know all the words. And Clara knows absolutely everything else about it. "Well, the Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan says . . . ."

We ate in the bistro right there in the building. You have to have a ticket to the performance to even get in the restaurant. So many fur coats in one little space!

Daisy had a new dress in honor of the occasion. Made from the same heavy cream silk as Bella's opera dress. They got so many compliments in their sister outfits--I imagine Bella's white gloves were somewhat responsible. Personally I liked Clara in her dark dress and red vintage gloves. She can so do elegant!

Then the Aquarium, then the fabric store, then the German sausage store, then fancy cakes from the cafe . . . .

And then home, where we had snow!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Barn Owl Evening Bag

Tiny wool handbag lined with checkered silk, barn owl applique, velvet ribbon handles . . . .

Edited: In the shop tonight.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bed by Bed

It's time for all, *all* the bedding to get washed, to satisfy the housekeeper in me and to help the allergy sufferers in the house. I'm doing just one a week, though, as more would be madness.

In age order, each child is stripping absolutely everything off the bed. Mattress pad, sheets of course, all blankets, quilts, duvets, pillows, everything. It takes about all day to get everything washed and tumbled dry, but it feels so good to get it done.

I did not know that Bella slept under three quilts, two afghans, and four pillows. Hers took more than a day.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Asparagus with Bacon

Bella made this tray of savory goodness. Wrap bundles of asparagus in thick bacon, drizzle all with equal parts soy sauce and brown sugar. Bake at 350 til bacon is adequately crispy. Can't possibly be good for you, but oh my.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

She Does So Much of This

She does so much of this, lately . . . .

it seems like I can hardly get a lap in edgewise.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Quick Look Back at the Gifts

. . . because I achieved a minor dream I've had--to serve the Christmas gifts up color-coordinated. Killing both these birds with the one stone: pretty piles of presents, and more importantly, no need to make gift tags. Every person had his own color!

I used one giant roll of brown kraft paper, and lots of odd ribbons collected over the year from the thrift store for pennies. Definitely I am doing this again!

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Big Girl's Smock from a Flowery Shirt

Man's shirt from the thrift store? No man was going to wear this, it was way too pretty. A crisp cotton with little flowers on it, brand new from Banana Republic.

I kept the button placket intact, cut off the collar and the sleeves, and cut the front and back into sort of an A-line shape. A little self-bias binding around the neckline and armholes, and inverted pleats at the back neck to take in some fullness, and I had a darling big girl smock.

We are so lucky to have thrift stores, seriously.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Goodbye to the Big Boys

We had a wonderful, wonderful break together, but the wide world calls. Giles is off to New York again, spending the winter term interning for a commercial photographer whose work he really likes. A change from his summertime in NYC, when he worked for a different company as their all-around photo and graphic design guy. Those folks still like him enough to have hired him for his odd hours coming up, and he'll be earning a little there even while he works his new internship.

Felix scored last week--a thrifted vest that was easily tailored to his personal specs. He's setting the sartorial standard at his school; apparently there's an institution now called "Felix Shirt Friday" where everyone wears a shirt with a collar. Did not see that one coming, as his clothes for several years consisted of rainboots and underwear. He was younger then.

One more semester of high school ahead of him. Can he repeat this term's 4.0? Stay tuned for our next installment of "The Big Boys"!

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